- The Group's performance in the first quarter of 2016 featured like-for-like growth, the strength of the recurring business and increased capex:
- Revenue of €1,082Mn (+8% like-for-like); EBITDA of €714Mn (+8% like-for-like); net profit of €385Mn (+9% like-for-like).
- Traffic growth in Spain (+11.4%) and in the Group's main markets, such as France (+3.7%) and Chile (+6.1%).
- Improvement in accident (-8.9%) and mortality (-22.4%) rates for the Group as a whole.
- Total capex and M&A investments of €1,084Mn.
- The company remains on track to deliver the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan:
- Growth: acquisition of 50% of Autopista Central for €948Mn; advanced negotiations to acquire 51.4% of the A4 and A31 toll roads in Italy; extension of the concession periods for the PR-22 and PR-5 toll roads in Puerto Rico by 10 years.
- Focus / internationalisation: more than 70% of Group EBITDA generated outside Spain and 94% from the toll road business.
- Efficiency gains: improvement in the EBITDA ratio to 66% (from 64.6% in March 2015)
- Shareholder remuneration: payment on 19 April of a final dividend for 2015 of €0.36 per share (+5% vs. 2014).
Abertis' key figures improved in the first quarter of 2016, with growth in like-for-like EBITDA (+8%), like-for-like revenue (+8%) and like-for-like net profit (+9%). The period featured the resilience of the recurring business, traffic increases -especially in Spain (+11.4%; +6.8% like-for-like) and the addition of new assets in the consolidation scope following the acquisition of 50% of Autopista Central in Chile and control of Túnels de Barcelona y Cadí in Spain in 2015.
Traffic in the Group's main markets increased in the period. In Spain, the uptrend continued: +11.4% from January to March. Considering the Easter calendar effect, traffic still grew by 6.8%, the largest first-quarter increase since 2007.
Internationally, sharp increases were posted in Chile (+6.1%; 5.5% like-for-like) and France (+3.7%, 3.1% like-for-like), outperforming the company's forecasts so far the year.
With respect to road safety, the Group as a whole delivered improvements in accident (-8.9%) and mortality (-22.4%) rates, driven above all by the Brazilian market, where the number of casualties on the road decreased by 24% between January and March.
As for progress on the Strategic Plan, one highlight of the period was the acquisition of 50% of Autopista Central from Canadian fund AIMco for €948Mn. Autopista Central, a 61-kilometre concession, is Chile's premium toll road asset, and the country's busiest road.
Negotiations continued in the first quarter for the acquisition of a 51.4% stake in Italy's A4 Holding, which manages the A4 (Brescia-Padova) and A31 (Vicenza-Piovene-Rochette) toll roads.
Elsewhere, progress was made on plans to extend the duration of Abertis' various concessions. In April, Metropistas, Abertis' subsidiary in Puerto Rico, signed an agreement with the Puerto Rico Highways & Transportation Authority (PRHTA) whereby its concession contract for the PR-5 and PR-22 toll roads has been extended by 10 years. The Group is negotiating similar agreements in Chile and Argentina.
Regarding increased shareholder remuneration, on 19 April Abertis paid a final dividend out of 2015 profit of €0.36 per share, implying a 5% increase in the ordinary dividend and an additional 5% from the traditional annual bonus share issue.
Abertis reported revenues of €1,082Mn in the first quarter, up 4%, driven by overall traffic growth. Stripping out extraordinary items, revenues rose by 8% like-for-like.
Following the removal of Cellnex from the consolidation scope, the toll road business now represents 95% of revenue. Hispasat accounts for the remaining 5%.
EBITDA totalled €714Mn (+6%) thanks, among other factors, to the strong operating performance. Excluding extraordinary effects, EBITDA increased by 8% like-for-like.
Progress in the Group's efficiency plans during the quarter drove a sharp increase in the EBITDA margin increased, to 66% at the end of the period.
Lastly, the addition of Autopista Central and Túnels to the Group's consolidation scope helped drive an increase in the Group's net profit for the quarter to €385Mn. Excluding this effect, net profit rose by 9% like-for-like.
Business trends in the main markets
The acquisition of 100% control of Autopista Central in Chile underscores the Group's firm commitment to internationalisation. By the end of the first quarter, Abertis' operations outside Spain accounted for nearly three-quarters of EBITDA (72%) and revenue (74%).
France is the largest contributor to the Group's total EBITDA (36%) and represents 35% of revenue. Traffic at Sanef, Abertis' French arm, rose by 3.7% (calendar-adjusted 3.1%), with average daily traffic (ADT) of 21,550 vehicles.
The business in Spain was boosted by the inclusion of Túnels de Barcelona y Cadí in the scope of consolidation following last year's acquisition of shares until surpassing the 50% threshold for control. Spain also posted the strongest traffic growth of the Group's main markets, of 11.4% between January and March (+6.8% like-for-like), with an ADT of 16,745 vehicles. This marked the eight straight quarter of growth and the largest increase in the first quarter since 2007. This division accounts for 28% of total EBITDA and 26% of revenue.
Abertis' division in Chile increased its relative weight in the Group after acquiring the 100%-control of Autopista Central and is now the Group's third larger EBITDA contributor (13% of the total). It also accounts for 11% of Group revenue. Traffic in Chile registered an ADT of 27,865 vehicles in the first quarter this year, up 6.1% (5.5% including the Easter calendar effect).
Brazil provides 11% of total EBITDA and 14% of revenue. Political and economic instability in the country have undermined heavy vehicle traffic. ADT at Arteris, Abertis' subsidiary in Brasil, was 18,467 vehicles in the quarter, 2.3% lower than last year (-3% like-for-like). Operational and expansion capex to enhance this division's network increased in the quarter, to €88Mn. Meanwhile, in April, Brazil's stock market regulator publicly announced its approval of the tender offer for Arteris, which will take effect on 17 May. The transaction implies the delisting of Arteris shares.
The Group's investments in the period amounted to €1,084Mn (more than in 2015 as a whole), of which €125Mn corresponded to expansion and €11Mn to operational capex. The main growth projects in the period related to improvements and lane expansions on toll roads in Brazil (€84Mn) and the development of Hispasat's new satellites (€27Mn).
The bulk of investment went to the acquisition in January of a 50% stake in Autopista Central in Chile for €948Mn. After this deal, Abertis has 100%-controlling stakes in all six of its concessions in Chile.
Abertis' net debt at 31 March 2016 stood at €13,680Mn, up from €12,554 en 31 December 2015. The increase was the result of the new assets added to the consolidation scope. However, the net debt/EBITDA ratio decreased from 4.7x (December 2015) to 4.5x.
Of total debt, 67% is secured by the company's own projects (i.e. non-recourse). 89% is at fixed rates and average maturity is 5.9 years. Recent moves to manage debt though refinancing with new bonds issues (liability management) reduced the average of debt of from 5.2% (March 2015) to 5% (March 2016).